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Most county schools improve marks in preliminary statewide proficiency tests

South Point sixth graders are little math experts and Rock Hill fourth graders know more than a thing or two about being good citizens - according to the preliminary results of the 2005 Ohio school proficiency tests.

Although the data still must be verified by individual districts and is not yet official, it shows overall, most Lawrence County elementary and middle school students are showing improvements in their test scores in core subjects such as math and reading.

Fourth graders are tested on their knowledge of math, science and citizenship.

Dylan Bishop, fourth grader at Rock Hill Elementary, said reading and math were the easiest parts of the test for him.

"In reading, they would give you a story and you would have to write a small summary about it," he explained. "I think I did pretty well, some of it (the test) was easy, some of it was harder."

For Dylan, science was more difficult.

"There was one question where you were asked to make a rain gauge and they gave you a few choices, a few different things to make it out of. It was hard. There were a lot of things to choose from," he said.

Sixth graders tested their skills in reading, math, science, citizenship and writing.

For Ironton Middle School student Stephanie Elswick, the test "gave me a challenge. Some of the questions were hard, some were easy, some were different. Š You just had to listen to the teacher. They gave us booklets and practice questions."

Elswick, who described herself as a "pretty good student," said science was the hardest part of the test.

"They asked us to give the definitions of words, and formulas of different things," she said.

No doubt, one of the school districts with the most to celebrate is the Rock Hill School District. Preliminary figures show gains made in nearly every area tested.

The number of Rock Hill fourth graders who tested at or above the proficient level in math leaped by 6 percentage points over last year. Sixty-two percent of Rock Hill fourth graders scored well in math. But fourth graders posted the biggest gains in citizenship: the number of those students testing at or above the proficient level shot up 13 points, to 59 percent. Fourth graders also made substantial gains in the science portion of the test.

Rock Hill sixth graders posted gains in reading and science.

Preliminary figures show Ironton fourth-graders posted a 20-point gain in citizenship while sixth graders in the city district posted gains in reading and citizenship. The percentage of Ironton

sixth-graders who scored at or above the proficient level in reading jumped nearly 20 points to 75 percent. There was a seven-point gain on the citizenship portion of the test.

Ironton Superintendent Dean Nance said changes in the curriculum last year helped improve scores in some areas. A new language arts program for elementary grades was put into effect last year. A new science program for grades K-6 goes into effect this year.

"I'm pleased, overall," Nance said. "I know there are areas where we need improvement, but definitely there is some progress being made. We have a plan and we're coming together and striving for excellence."

Chesapeake fourth graders improved in citizenship. Seventy-four percent of Chesapeake fourth graders scored at or above the proficient level in citizenship.

Those preliminary figures also show Chesapeake sixth-graders posted gains in reading and science. The number of Chesapeake sixth-graders scoring at or above the proficient level in science jumped 9 percentage points, with 89 percent attaining the proficient or above status.

Dawson-Bryant fourth graders posted increases in all three areas of their test. The number of students posting at or above the proficient level in math jumped by 9 percentage points, but the biggest gain was made on the citizenship portion of the test: the number of kids in the fourth grade testing at or above proficient in citizenship increased by 13 points, according to the preliminary figures. Ninety-two percent of Coal Grove fourth graders scored at desired levels in citizenship.

Dawson-Bryant sixth graders posted a 2-percent gain in math.

While South Point fourth graders posted gains in citizenship, their sixth grade counterparts posted sizeable gains in reading, math and citizenship. The number of South Point sixth graders who tested at or above the proficient level in math jumped 20 percentage points. Sixty-four percent of South Point sixth graders scored at the desired levels.

South Point Curriculum Director Debbie York said the district has revamped its math to make it more exciting to the children.

"We did more hands on, real world things so kids could see where math concepts apply to everyday life," York said. "For instance, 'why do I have to know about fractions?" Well, we showed them 'this is why, this is how you use fractions in your daily life.' We did this because math is so abstract."

The sixth graders kept the momentum going, posting a 14-point increase in reading and a 20-point increase in citizenship.

"We've gotten teachers to work on the standards and we've done a lot of intervention," South Point Superintendent Ken Cook said. "We're looking at what skills students are having problems with and working on those. We've done a lot more individualized instruction and a lot of professional development."

Fairland fourth graders posted gains in math and citizenship while their sixth grade counterparts posted gains in reading (an increase of three percentage points) citizenship and science. The number of Fairland sixth-graders scoring at desired levels on the science portion of the test jumped eight points to 84 percent.

Symmes Valley fourth graders showed decreases on all three parts of the proficiency test, while their sixth-grade counterparts posted a 13-point gain in reading. Eighty-eight percent of Symmes Valley sixth graders scored at or above the proficient level on the reading portion of the test.